Café Trang opens with a bang
Spoons clearing the last drop of hot and sour soup clang against the side of bowls over the low hum of conversation at Café Trang. It’s barely the restaurant’s second week in its quiet niche on Sidewinder Drive, but already customers, fill nearly every table for lunch. Some look as though they’re fresh off the slopes, thawing in the warm glow of the cherry wood floors and tables.
Owner Anna Tran had an inkling the restaurant would do well in Park City, given the hints left behind by skiing regulars who frequent her other locations — but she couldn’t have guessed her fans would discover her this quickly.
"They said they would come more often if it was closer," Tran recalls. "We always knew we would do well here, but we wanted to wait for the right moment So far, we’re doing well. They really like the flavor of what we cook, I guess."
This is the fourth restaurant she runs with her husband, Long Tran. The family business began in 1987, with Tran’s parents.
"Trang" means "simple, yet elegant," Tran says. She tells people her first name is Anna, but on her birth certificate, Tran’s first name is Trang. It is also the first name of both of her two sisters, she says.
Tran took the reins of the business when her parents wanted to retire. It was Tran who chose to open multiple locations.
She also streamlined the menu. The original location in downtown Salt Lake City had some 300 choices, Tran says. When she created a second location in Holladay eight years ago, she reduced the menu to include the best 10 percent of the menu. Tran also opened a location in Draper last May.
The newest Café Trang, is in experienced hands, notes Tran. Chef Lam Phan, a Vietnamese chef from Salt Lake, has worked at Café Trang for eight years, she says.
The recipes are family recipes Chinese and Thai dishes with a Vietnamese twist. Her mother is three-fourths Chinese, but was born in Vietnam, Tran explains.
"We’re different from [other Vietnamese] restaurants because we have lots of vegetarian items and we also have a lot of Thai and Chinese dishes," she explained.
One of the most popular dishes is General Tsao’s Chicken, has been updated by Cafe Trang from the traditional Chinese dish by using dark meat instead of white meat.
Tran also highlights the caramel pork and the chow fun with beef, Cafe Trang’s Pad Thai and the Malaysian noodle dishes as bestsellers.
The most popular items in Park City, however, are the curry dishes.
"My chefs have been telling me we’ve been serving tons of curry [in Park City]," Tran reports. "Our Park City clients are definitely more adventurous eaters. You have to be very brave to try that. In Draper, their taste is much more bland."
Tran emphasizes the key to her success has been quality food with fresh ingredients.
Café Trang’s menu is especially careful to be clear about the ingredients included in its dishes. The restaurant has vegan as well as vegetarian alternatives, and most dishes are not cooked with Monosodium Glutamate
"We’re very careful about using MSG in our dishes, but there are a few that have MSG, and we tell our customers to ask us if they want us not to cook with it," Tran said.
Tran has been planning to have a restaurant in Park City for two years, waiting for an affordable lease to keep her prices down. Lunchtime specials hover around $8. Of course, with the warm welcome she’s received thus far, she wonders whether or not her 2,200 square-foot 80-seat capacity location is big enough.
"We didn’t realize our customer base in Park City was so strong," she confesses. "Word travels quick."
Café Trang is located at 1811 Sidewinder Dr., Suite 102. For more information call (435) 655-8884. Café Trang also has a website, which can be found by logging on to http://www.cafetrangutah.com. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch, dinner, take out and party trays.
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The Jordanelle Reservoir is at about 67% of its capacity, not the lowest its been but a level that officials say is concerning.